Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Question And Answer

I received this question yesterday from a beginning distance runner (she is training for her first 10K in March, with a goal of doing the Flying Pig Half in May).  I thought the rest of my readers, especially those of you who are just starting out with your fitness goals, would benefit from the advice I'm giving her.
Q: Do you ever just have a run that is so bad or painful so you stop? I just did that! I'm aggravated.
A:  Oh no, that never happens to me!  Every time I go out for a run, the sun shines, there is a gentle breeze at my back, and I feel like I am dancing on little puffy clouds.
Sarcasm aside, of course I've had lots of bad and/or painful runs (as all runners do from time to time).  The worst I've ever felt running was probably last year's Flying Pig Marathon.  I began experiencing joint pain in my legs and hips at eight miles in, and my only options were to quit right there or to suffer through 18 more miles of agony (oh, and pouring rain) to complete the race. After four months of training, quitting never entered my mind.  I just sucked it up for the next three hours and finally made it to the finish.
When it comes to races, especially the important ones that require months of training, runners will push themselves past the pain.  There are certain times that you just block it out and dig deep within yourself.  And luckily, sometimes your God-given endorphins and adrenaline kick in and you don't even notice that you are hurting anymore.
You may be saying, "Okay, Gabrielle, races are one thing, but what about your average Tuesday training run?"  I agree, it's much more difficult to dig deep if it's a random weekday on the treadmill and you don't have a crowd, a medal or a finish line keeping you going.  But, there is a distinct difference between actually experiencing pain and "just not feelin' it."  My best advice if you are having a "just not feelin' it" run is to try going to a few of your favorite high-energy songs on your iPod and envision how crossing the finish line at the race will feel. Then, if all else fails, it's best just to stop and try it again later or the next day. 
Everyone has "just not feelin' it" days from time to time, and that's okay, but it's important to be honest with yourself.  One one side of the spectrum, it's easy to get caught up in excuses.  It's not okay to continually tell yourself day after day that you are too tired to run, or don't think you have enough time, or just aren't feeling like it.  That's laziness. On the other hand, you should never push yourself so hard that you are risking injury. That's insanity.  Listen to your body, and know when to stop. 
If you are actually stopping your run because you are having pain, a few different things could be going on.  If you are having pain in your feet or lower legs, you probably need to get a new/different pair of shoes.  Note where it hurts specifically, and then go into the Running Spot or your local running store and describe exactly how and where it hurts.  They will work with you to figure it out.  It may just be an adjustment with your laces or inserts, or you may need a different style or size of shoe.

If you are having pain in your ribcage, you are probably experiencing side stitches.  This is a common running problem that can usually be solved with some slight changes to your diet and/or gait.  A lot of times, it can also be dehydration.  Make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day, not just right before or during your run.  If you are having a side stitch, stick it out for the rest of your run if you can.  Try drinking some water, change your breathing pattern, or press your fingers to the area where it hurts.  It can be painful, but it will usually work itself out within 10-15 minutes.

Another reason why many newbie runners experience pain is because they are running too fast.  To start out, you should be running slowly enough that you can carry on a conversation without being winded.  Any time you start feeling winded, slow down a little and see if you feel better at a slower pace. If you're training with a group, you shouldn't be trying to keep up with more experienced runners.  They may get finished faster, but you'll enjoy your run a lot more if you are comfortable.
While all runners wish they could bottle whatever it is that makes them have a good run, the key to having good runs more often than bad runs is noting your variables and trying to repeat them.  You might keep a running journal (or blog?) noting the time of day you are running, your pace and distance, what you ate/drank that day (and when), and even your attire.  Over time, you'll notice trends in these variables and with a little discipline, you'll be able to help yourself have more good runs than bad ones in the future.
I hope my answers help.  If any other runners have any tips to share, please comment below!

No comments: